Wednesday, 24 August 2011

F355: MOT Time!

Well, it's nearly been a year since I picked up the F355 from London. As I had asked for it to be freshly MOT'ed when I bought the car, the MOT is now due.  I took it in for the test last week to an MOT garage that myself and many of my friends take our cars too; 'Scott Vehicles Services'. The testers are very fair (although my trusty Fiat Panda 100hp failed it's first MOT last week!) they are also MOT'd the Porsche and are very careful about getting low cars on the rollers and the ramps.

They were also more than happy for me to linger annoyingly and wait for the results! Anyway, long story short, it passed!

Monday, 20 June 2011

F355: Annual and Belts

It's been a while since I last posted. Apologies!

The biggest news on the F355 front is that I Just got my car back from it's Annual and belts service from MP Supercars.

Martin and Phil who run the place, are very friendly knowledgeable guys and had my car ready in less than 5 days despite being obviously extremely busy.

The service rushed me £1350. The Ferrari main dealer was a not unreasonable £1600+VAT, so around £2k. But I knew if other things needed done the cost would spiral out of control. Luckily no other work was needed to my car, so the first service turned out to be quite painless! Phew.

 While I was waiting I noticed the signed, quite fittingly Ferrari inspired Jamirorquai poster with the message "Martin + Phil, thanks for the fix. Jay Kay" well if it's good enough for Jay Kay's Enzo*, it's good enough for my F355.

*based on no factual information! I forgot to ask what they fixed for him, but I assume it was one of his Ferraris.

Monday, 23 May 2011

VX220 Turbo: Ingliston

Ingliston, At one time the only racing track in Scotland, it was the hunting ground for many famous drivers between 1965 and 1992 including the late great Jim Clark. The circuit is now a shadow of it's former self with a grandstand placed on the start/finish straight preventing the ability to do a full circuit of the track. Still it's a fantastic place with great history and the location for my first ever sprint....

The day started well; warm, sunny, full of anticipation and excitement for what was to come. Kaeli and I packed up the VX220 and our trusty rusty Polo with some tools, our homemade timing strut and my racing gear; comprising of a V2 pro fireproof helmet an OMP 3 layer racing suit and a pair of fireproof gloves, which including a MSA National B license some racing numbers and a sticker on the ignition switch is all that is required to start sprinting.

After signing on I nervously waited for the scrutineer to check over my car. I was pretty sure my outfit was ok but I was worried that I might have missed something on the car. I needn't have worried though, after a quick once over the car and my gear was given the all clear and I was ready to walk the circuit.

My fellow competitors were really friendly and a small group of them walked me round the course, explaining what hazards to look out for with Kevin a former VX220 and MX5 owner and my inspiration for getting into sprinting giving me some tips on tyre pressures, 24psi front and 26 rear and also guiding me in the importance of getting a "banker" lap in on the first timed run.

First and second practice run went well, with my second scoring a 52.06 beating the previous years class record and leading the class. For the 3rd practice run I tried to push a bit harder and soon found my limit resulting in a spin in the tricky left hander towards the end of the lap. I made a school boy error, I lifted. I was understeering wide due to taking in too much speed and tapped the brake and within an instant physics caught up with me and the car spun, luckily it stayed on the track. In the heat of the moment I had forgotten to dip the clutch causing the engine to stall. I gathered myself and pushed the start button; the engine lazily turned over and over with nothing happening until finally it burst into life and I managed to get to the end of the course.

After lunch it was time for my first timed run, I knew I just had to do the time I had done in second practice but the spin was weighing on my mind and the pressure was mounting; I only had two shots at this and I didn't want to mess it up. I followed fellow competitor Dave's lead in warming up the brakes as best I could whilst keeping under the pit lane speed limit. After watching Dave's MR2 shoot up the chicane past the Clydesdale bank, quaintly protected by some hay bales it was my turn...

I pulled up to the start line, the marshals rolled the car into position just so the timing strut cut the starting light beam, then held it. I revved the 2.0l turbo to 3 or 4k and waited anxiously for the small traffic light to go green and signal the start of my run. The light flicks to green, adrenaline shoots around my body, I dump the clutch and after a small amount of protesting from the rear Toyo's the car hooks up and launches itself towards the hay bales in front of me. I gingerly eased the wheel right then left up through the esses trying my best to avoid the biggest of the holes in the tarmac and barrel towards the first right hander. I slammed on the anchors the car responds eagerly, much more so than expected. After massaging the car through the corner I was onto the start of the high speed section of the circuit, with a long straight containing a small almost insignificant right hand kink that can almost be taken flat out, I only found out later in the day that it couldn't, for this run I lifted ever so slightly, the nose of car responded and guided me round the kink. Then the hairpin, with absolutely no run off, it was either hit the hay bales or miss them and run into the ditch behind them. The car turned diligently and the under steer I had previously experienced in the car when testing at Kames just wasn't there, the camber modifications I had made to the front end had worked well. I pushed my foot flat to the floor and tore towards the most tricky corner of the circuit a reasonably sharp left hander with a couple of tricks up it's sleeve. First was the cone placed on the racing line forcing drivers after the perfect parabola to kink right before braking and then committing to the left hand, secondly was the tightening radius of the corner, something I had noticed on the walk around the track but hadn't fully appreciated before trying to get the power down in the corner and finding the car starting to wash wide; with a view full of grass and trees rather than the welcome sight of grey weathered tarmac. Luckily this time I made it round the corner and shot towards the final section of the circuit and my favourite part; a flat out left then right kink, where I could just feel and hear the scrubbing of the tyres and the sign that limit of grip of the semi slicks is coming to an end before straightening up and powering through the finishing line. Moments later a time flashes up on the 6 character alarm clock style display, I glance at it.. 51.07m I had done it; I had broken the class record. It hits me a massive rush of adrenaline, I was even shaking as I navigated back towards the paddock. This was quite possibly the biggest rush of my life.

Dave in his MR2 and Andrew in his stunning orange TVR vixen didn't manage to beat my time and I received a small 1st in class trophy for my troubles. The Sunday was another glorious day, the track had been shortened due to a couple of accidents that happened past the finish line the day before. I managed to take another class win with a time of 46.09 beating my nearest rival Alistair driving a series 1 Elise by over 3 seconds. To say I was chuffed was an understatement, the car had run faultlessly all weekend. At the start of the weekend I just wanted to not come last but to end up with 2 class wins and a class record was beyond belief.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

VX220 Turbo: The leaky nipple...

In preparation for my first sprint at Ingliston, I've splashed out on some new alloys, tyres and brakes. A nice glossy set of white Team Dynamics 1.2's with Toyo R888's. I had 888's on my MX5 and found them progressive and a hell of a lot grippier then normal road tyres, so I'm hoping for similar results on the VX. As for the brakes I went for cheap standard discs off ebay and CL5+ pads which weren't cheap but were highly recommended.

Managed to get everything fitted on one sunny Saturday with my girlfriend very kindly helping. Bought some new bolts to hold the wheel arch liners and under trays on from ebay. Unfortunately the craptastic plastic screws used on the arches don't work very well so I might have to find a better solution to fasten them onto the car. Also added a breather pipe for the gearbox, been told without this you can get oil pissed on to the passenger side rear wheel under hard cornering, which doesn't sound great.

To give all the changes a shakedown I did a Dreadnought track evening at Knockhill. All started well with the new brakes feeling much sharper and the tyres gripping well but after a couple of laps the abs started kick in very early and after a couple more laps the brake pedal went straight to the floor, which is rather alarming when coming towards the hairpin at 100mph, upon returning to the pits to let everything cool down, I noticed the pads were smoking a little but nothing too alarming. After pumping the pedal and a quick drive in the surrounding country side to cool the brakes the pedal came back. Went out again and within 4 or 5 laps they were cooked again.
Not sure what to try I thought I'd see what happened if I disconnected the abs. Which just involves unplugging one of the front wheel sensors. Instantly the car was easier to drive under heavy braking as the pedal was the same for every corner, unlike with the abs on where it was a lottery whether the pedal would be rock hard and useless(abs active) or softer and much sharper, until I cooked the brakes again. I'm actually pretty shocked at how bad the abs is, in fact it appears to be dangerous as the brakes become almost ineffective when it's active. I'll be keeping it unplugged for all track days and sprints from now on.

Cutting the day short I did a little more poking around the brakes and noticed the drivers side front calliper was leaking and managed to strip red paint off the calliper and drip onto the brand new white alloys, not good.

Upon further investigation it appears that the bleed nipple wasn't fully tightened on the offending calliper, undoubtedly caused by the mechanic that did a brake fluid change and service less than a month ago....
Hoping this was the sole cause of the loss of brake pressure but just in case I'm going to flush out the brakes with some new higher boiling point fluid and do a track day at Kames on Sunday to make sure it's sorted.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

VX220 Turbo: Engine mount fun

I found my side engine mounts were both leaking and I was getting a faint grinding noise when driving. I had a receipt for them being replaced by the previous owner last year so it was surprising to see that they had failed so quickly. Turns out this is another feature of these cars and there's lots of good write ups on about how to fix them. Managed to get a couple of replacements off Autovaux for about £60 and after a couple of missed deliveries and a fair few calls to Autovaux, they turned up about 3 weeks after ordering them.

The job was actually surprisingly easy. First thing to do was to whip off the under trays and jack up the car.
Then remove the rear wheel followed by the wheel arch liner. Then jack up the engine slightly to hold it in position and unbolt the the lump of metal that connects the engine to the top of the engine mount. It appears that the last person to do this job may have tried to get the engine mount on by levering it on rather then doing this and there are a couple of tell tale nicks in the metal around the mount to prove this theory. This might be why they failed so soon after fitting. Next step was to unbolt the old mount using a long socket extension from the bottom of the car and then bolt everything back together.

The grinding noise has gone and gear changes now feel much more precise, which is a nice bonus.

Also managed to get a nifty little cover for the expansion tank off ebay, hopefully this will stop it cracking again from UV exposure. Was only £10 and just clips on to the top most hose connected to the tank.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

F355: Exhaust pipe dreams

Since sorting the problem I created with the MAF sensor and the blow in the exhaust the Ferrari has been running beautifuly.

The Nouvalari sounds amazing when accelerating hard or at high revs but around town and driving slowly it's boomy and still noisy as hell after a while it gets a bit much. The standard exhaust was very civilised and didn't on the drive back up from London it wasn't once too intrusive. But I did change it in the first place, so perhaps it was too civilised...

I'm starting to think I should look at other options. The problem is there are so many options and without hearing them it's going to  be hard to make any sort of decision. I'm thinking Capristo will have a better "engineered" noise but they come in 3 levels.. I think level 1 would be enough for me. Then there is Tubi, Gothspeed, ITO and I also got offered a Kreissegg for $4500 (!) Too many options and not enough decision making power!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

F355: Oh joy!

After hooking up an OBD II reader (the later 5.2 Motronic ECU F355's are partially OBD II compliant, but I'll post more on that later) and after some help from the forums it seemed that my MAF reading was about 3 times what it should have been reading at idle at 30g/s where it should be nearer 10g/s.

It seems my car was thinking it was getting a lot more air than it actually was and overfuelling to compensate. Here's the fix. I had put the MAF sensor on in the wrong direction! Turns out it doesn't work so well like that!

The car is now running perfectly again! Heart attack cancelled.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

F355: Oh oh...

After reading a post on Ferrarichat or ClubScuderia about slight blows in the F355 exhaust system making a huge difference to the "boominess" of the exhaust note I checked mine and noticed a blow coming from the bypass valve. (The bypass valve is closed under a certain rev range for noise regulations and opens up above this range to really make the system howl.)

I decided to change the gaskets on the bypass valve. A quick check on Eurospares: £51 each! For a metal ring. I phoned a few places but nobody could supply them. I had nearly given up when I emailed Capristo. They have their own ones for 12 Euros each! Excellent. So I emailed back two order two up and asked  to advise on payment. Two days later 2 gaskets show up in the post! Capristo never took any money off me, thumbs up to them! I also ordered a new bolt kit from Ended up being around £30 for a couple of nuts and bolts, 2 springs and spacers.

I removed the bypass valve, to get at it you need  to remove the airboxes, MAF sensor and exhaust heat sheild. The old gasket rings were very flat and caked into the valve, I did however, manage to pry them free and position the new capristo gaskets, refitted the gasket with the bolt kit. Reassembled the car and fired it up! Still blowing!

I took it all to bits again and applied a little bit of exhaust paste around  the gaskets and refitted everything. The blow appears to be gone but now the car is idling too low around 750rpm and runs really badly up until about 2000/3000rpm.

When I initially fitted Nouvalari the car did run slightly oddly at first but turning the battery off and letting the ECU relearn did the trick. I will give this a try at the weekend along with hooking up an OBD 2 reader to see if I've done something to the MAF sensor!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

VX220 Turbo: Hax0ring my VX

One "design feature" of the VX is the doors lock as soon as you close them. So if you pop out of the car and leave the keys in the ignition you have the potential of locking them inside. No prizes for guessing how I know this.

This wouldn't be too much of an issue if I had a second key that worked but unfortunately the previous owner gave me a key that wasn't for my car. I didn't think to try it at the time as it had a tag with my license plate number on it. So I figured it must work, after all who would put a tag on a key for the wrong car!?!? Just another thing to look out for when buying second hand.

With the worry of locking my keys in the car and then having to rely on my German breakdown recovery ADAC to gain entry (what can I say, they were cheaper then the AA) I decided I had to get a second working key. Inspired by a forum post on I purchased a spare uncut key from ebay for £9 and an opcom cable which works on most Vauxhall's for another £35. Then a quick trip to Timpson to get the key cut for another £5 and I was ready to hack my car!! well program a key to the immobiliser at least :).

This involves hooking up the opcom cable to a laptop and then connecting it to the diagnostic port under the dash. Turning the ignition on with the new key without starting the car. Then using the opcom software supplied with the cable to program the new key to the immobiliser. After following the on screen prompts which require you to turn the car off and on a few times your new key is associated with the immobiliser and can now start the car, result!! The software even allows you to remove lost keys from the car for added security.

The opcom cable can also display engine and ABS faults. As well as output real time data from the cars sensors, such as air mass and throttle position. I must admit this really appeals to my inner geek and I'm sure it'll come in handy for diagnosing problems in the future.

Monday, 14 February 2011

F355: Optimate mated!

2cm from an expensive mistake!
The F355 didn't get a lot of use over the snow-fest we had during December and January and as a result I had to jump start the Ferrari off my new Fiat Panda. The tiny car's equally tiny battery fired the V8 up no problem but wasn't something I'd want to do on a regular basis. Also, when jumping a F355 you have to make sure the other car is not running as the voltage spikes from the other car can cause the Airbag ECU to fry! (Apparently!) Not a risk I was going to take anyway. Just for fun (or perhaps sublime weight ballasting) the F355's battery is positioned in probably the most awkward place of any car; foward of the right hand side wheelarch! Because of this there is a jump start point in the engine bay, you need to take off the right hand side cover to access it though but you'll see a little black box with a big red plus sign on it. The negative terminal can be connected anywhere on the earthed bodywork but there is is a dedicated post nearby.

So, I purchased an OptiMate 4 Battery charger and conditionerto prevent the battery from draining when the car wasn't seeing much use and uses less than £1 worth of electricty a year according to the manual! The Optimate comes with a permanent plug that you attach to your battery terminals so you simply park up and plug it in or a set of crocodile clips as a less permanent solution. As the battery isn't easily accessible and I already had the cover off the jump points I decided to use the croc clips on the terminals in the engine bay. I reversed the car in as the Optimate wouldn't reach round to the back of the car going in forwards. Once I "jumped" out of the car (by climbing over the centre console and out of the passenger door with the window open) I realised just how close to the wall I had gotten! I must have been about 2cm away from distaster!

Optimate plug in optimal position!
That was a close enough call for me to install the permanent Optiamte plug properly. Although, changing the battery would probably require the wheel to be removed I managed to access the terminals by turning the wheel to full lock. This gave me enough access to remove the 5 screws holding on the panel. Oddly the battery terminals were held on with one 10mm bolt on the negative terminal and one 11mm bolt on the positive terminal. Once I'd sussed this wierdness I fed the cable down behind the pop-up headlamp and attached them to the clamps. I'll velcro the top of the cable to the top of the body section soon so it doesn't get lost down behind the headlamp bay. Anyway, now there's no need for any terrifying reversing into the garage and driving it in forwards now seems like a walk in the park!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

VX220 Turbo: Don't Knock it, it's Knockhill!


After some issues with the brakes involving a turkey baster and a fluid warning light coming on under hard cornering. I finally made it to the track, turns out I hadn't topped up the reservoir enough after my aborted attempt to change my brake fluid.

Firstly the VX's not super car quick and gets overtaken by 4WD monsters on the straights but it is very controllable, predictable and certainly a lot more nippy then my old Mx5. What I had taken to be the car trying to kill me at the start of the day, was actually it's eagerness to do what I was telling it. I wasn't suffering with the under-steer that many reviewers have blighted the car with. Sure you could get it to under-steer if you man handled the controls but using some finesse you could balance the car and inching the throttle down would give you over-steer on demand. In fact out of Clark's I was struggling to stop the back swinging out but when it did, it was easy to catch even in the wet! A slight lift and a small steering correction and another buttock clenching moment avoided.

Not to say the car was perfect, overall grip and braking was below what I was expecting, I believe due to old road tyres and standard brakes; biting well at first but sometimes struggling to stop the car for the final hairpin and causing the ABS to kick in.

Must say I'm quite a fan of Knockhill, it's a bit on the short side but it has a couple of challenging corners to keep it interesting. It's proved to be a useful shake down for the car and thanks to some fellow owners at the trackday, I now have a few specific areas to look at to improve the VX.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

VX220 Turbo: Faults or Character?

I had the phrase "fail to prepare, prepare to fail" running through my head all week and was questioning whether signing up to do a track day a week after buying my VX was a good idea.

The first problem I had to sort was the bonnet release handle. It wasn't opening the bonnet and I managed to pull it off whilst trying, doh!!! Luckily I hadn't broken anything and managed to fit the handle back in place. A liberal dose of white grease on the locking mechanism and wd40 along the release cable and it was working smoothly again.

After this small triumph I noticed a more pressing issue, a hissing sound. Turns out the header tank was cracked. Not what I wanted to hear the night before a track day. Amazingly Evan Halshaw had one in stock for the princely sum of £20 + vat, bargain! I guess that's one of the advantages of having such a common engine. The tank went on really easily. Just a matter of disconnecting 3 hoses and removing a small clip on the front and in the classic Haynes manual way, doing the reverse to put it back together. In fact it was so easy to change it makes me wonder whether they knew this was going to be a problem and rather then using a better header tank just made it easier to replace.

The old tank on the left is really badly discoloured and cracking where the small hoses come in at the top. Nice clear new one on the right, made in Sweden apparently. I wonder if it's a Saab part?

Apparently these are both common problems. I was even talking to a fellow VX owner(friendly bunch they are too) on Saturday who had to do exactly the same fix that morning. Annoying as it is to find faults with a newly purchased car, sorting these couple of problems has really endeared the VX to me. It actually feels like my car now.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

F355 & Elise: Country drive

We took the cars out for a little country drive down the coast to North Berwick. Great fun, but Ross had the fuel light come on with no garage nearby so had a nice stressful time driving like a granny until we finally found one.

I took the opportunity to fill up the Elise too - 34mpg, which isn't too bad. The fuel there was actually cheaper than the Cokes we had at a pub in Gullane - £3.60 a pint! Enough to make drinking alcohol seem the cheap option.

The Lego Elise

Or VX220 as it's sometimes known. After owning a mk1 MX5 for a number of years and then having the rather unfortunate experience of arriving back from Le Mans after the 24 hour, only to find all that was left of my beloved car was a pile of glass. I had to start searching for something new.

The police never did find my MX5 and over 7 months later I've finally managed to find a replacement and its not the car I was expecting. Initially only being interested in an Elise, the natural choice; light weight revvy engine, rag top and amazing handling plus a badge that has racing pedigree. Almost obsessed, I spent hours trawling the classifieds for that perfect example with FSH, sub 60k miles, victory alloys, 160, 135, 111S or 111R. My obsession being catalysed by watching videos like Victory by Design and Lotus Elise Inside Story.

But after many months of searching for my perfect Elise, I came across the VX220 Turbo and what finally swayed it for me was a fifth gear shoot out between the 111R and VX220T. If Tiff can wrestle the VX to within a second of the latest incarnation of the Elise then that's good enough for me.

Besides who doesn't like Lego?!?!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Elise: Needless worrying...

Rover K-series engines have a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to head gaskets. Most of it is justified to be honest and its mainly due to the changes they made to the engine during its life cycle to make it cheaper.

Combine this with the super-accurate temperature gauge in the Elise and you can end up a nervous wreck as the figure slowly rises. 91..92..93 - the beads of sweat form - 94..95..96 - hands grip the steering wheel tighter - 97..98..99 - evasive manouvers are deployed, on goes the heater and the windows opened. Usually around this time you'll start moving anyway and the temperature drops right back down ready for the cycle to be repeated.

As the blog title suggests, this is all needless worrying. The head gasket appears to be fine and I'm always careful to let the car heat up properly before any sort of caning. In the worst traffic, the cooling fan kicks in at around 103 and it always manages to bring the temperature down again.

Doesn't stop me stressing though..

Thursday, 3 February 2011

F355: Washed, waxed and photographed!

I'm quite an avid photographer and I always felt it quite ridiculous that I never bothered my ass to take any decent shots of my old Porsche 993 while I had it. So, I managed to give the 355 a decent wash and wax a few weeks back and decided to take some pictures with my Canon 5D Mark II. The lens used were the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L and the Canon EF 17-40 mm f/4.0 Land a fairly old jessops tripod. I forgot what a stunning look car the F355 is. Will need to get it out for another photography session!  


Monday, 31 January 2011

F355: HVAC panel refurbishment

Bubbling HVAC
The F355 and I believe other Ferrari's can suffer from the black plastic parts of the interior deteriorating into a sticky mess. Mine actually seems pretty good apart from the AC control panel (HVAC panel) which had bubbled up and really let the interior down. Unfortunately a new panel is not available separately from Ferrari and a new unit will cost around £1000. A company many people swear by called "Stickynomore" quoted me $350 to refurb the panel but couldn't tell me how much it was to ship back from the USA and I would also have to pay to ship the thing over there. Hill Engineering supply a replacement overlay panel for £40, not a great bargain for what's basically a big, albeit, decent quality sticker but still a huge saving over a replacement part from Ferrari. In the end I ordered the overlay.

Removing the HVAC panel was very simple, one single screw inside the ashtray which pops out and then the HVAC panel simply unplugs. My ashtray was a bit chipped and cracked, a new part is £165 so I thought I'd try and give this a tidy up too.

I had to dismantle the HVAC panel to be able to really clean off the old covering, I used "Cillit Bang" which after a lot of scrubbing left me with a clean bare panel and my new overlay was installed.
The Finished Centre Console

I dismantled the ashtray and glued up where the plastic had cracked (out of sight but was causing it to sag) I also removed the little flag badge and gave it a quick clean with brasso. I then gave the ashtray a good clean and spray painted it with plastikote black paint.

The outcome is a much tidier centre console!

Elise: Out of hibernation

After the exceptionally poor weather we've been having, I wasn't sure if the Elise would make it out before spring. Luckily it's got a bit better recently, so I went about getting it out for a run.

The first issue was the battery. It was completely flat (to the point where the immobizer light wasn't flashing), but after a jump start it seemed to be running fine. However after driving it a second issue started to occur, this time concerning the idle. It would occasionally dip too low and the car would cut out.

After a quick browse about the forums, it suggested that the battery was probably goosed and causing the erratic idle. Sure enough, after a £50 trip to Costco, resetting the ECU and a little bit of driving the problem was gone.

F355: Exhausting choices

Lee and I had both agreed on the way up that the standard F355 exhaust, while nice and quiet while cruising didn't really make that famous Ferrari V8 scream as you neared the rev limiter. A sports exhaust was on the cards. The two main options are really Tubi or Capristo and from what I've gathered from hours of youtube video watching is that the Tubi is a bit more bassy and makes a deep growl (popular in the states) and the Capristo makes a higher pitched F1 scream. Capristo is what I had kind of decided in my head but at well over £2000 before it's even fitted, it was going to be painful in the wallet region so decided to see what else was out there.

There's a relative newcomer to the F355 exhaust market: Nouvalari. Despite the Italian sounding name they are a actually British company and after a quick email was quoted £750 directly from them and after a bit of a haggle they said they could do me one for £600. Not bad. I did a bit more forum digging and although there were mixed reviews they definitely leant towards the positives side, it was during my search I found a German forum member selling his Nouvarali which had only clocked up 1000 miles of use. I mailed him and we eventually agreed on a price of 400 Euros so around £340. At this price it was worth a punt and the exhaust arrived a few days later looking virtually brand new!

We fitted the exhaust on Lee's driveway, saving even more cash! Installation was relatively straight forward though the fitting was a little awkward. I can't help but wonder if a Capristo or Tubi would have been more easily aligned.

We started it up, it was LOUD and this was only the "Sport" version (Nouvalari also do an even louder Super Sport). The exhaust is kind of boomy at low revs and would probably give you a headache after a while driving around town and the only thing less subtle than driving a red Ferrari around town is driving a red Ferrari with a ridiculously loud exhaust. I was feeling like perhaps I had made the wrong choice until by chance we ended up going through a tunnel with the windows open. It was safe to say it sounds rather awesome in the right conditions! Still, if I see a nice, used Capristo up for sale I may just be tempted to try that too...

Friday, 28 January 2011

F355: Air conditioning fix.

As previously mentioned when I took delivey of the F355 the AC was not pumping out cold air. The dealer said that it may only need a regas.

I did what any sensible Ferrari owner would and took it to Kwik-Fit to put their no fix no fee AC promise to the test. They didn't have the car in their system but I supplied them with the specs, I think all the needed was the weight of the refrigerant which I found in the manual.

Lee showed the guy the where the ports were and we left the car at headed to Illegal Jacks to enter the required amount of burrittos into our own systems.

When we got back the guy explained to Lee in AC talk basically the compressor wasn't kicking in and as such there would be no charge even though they had fully charged the system with refridgerant. Arse.

We had the car down at Lee's and decided to take a quick look in the fuse box, the fuse for the AC compressor was blown. We replaced it, turned on the AC, waited, heard the click of the compressor kick in and.... ice-cold air began flowing into the cabin! The fix I thought could have been in the thousands turned out to be sorted for absolutely nothing!

F355: First problem! Suspension warning light

I'd only had the car for a few days, mostly taking friends and family out, as everyone was keen to see the car. I was feeling rather smug and boasting about how faultlessly the car had performed.

I was taking my friend Stu for a spin and as I pulled away I noticed a warning light had not gone out on the dash. It's a little picture of a car with arrows pointing upwards towards the wheels, the suspension warning light.

The F355 has active suspension and was pretty ahead of it's time. There are two accelerometers that measure acceleration, forwards and laterally. Using these the Ferrari can stiffen up  the rear dampers when accelerating hard or stiffen up one side of the car when cornering hard, reducing body roll.

It does this by turning a little valve on top of each damper with an actuator reducing or increasing the volume the oil compresses in, in the damper. When the ignition key is turned, the 4 actuators perform a calibration, if this is unsuccessful the warning light stays on.

After some research on it seems the most common cause of this, is the little gear that turns the valve can break. Removing the actuator from two of my shocks revealed two broken little gears.

Two were ordered up from Hill Engineering. These things are about 2cm across and seem expensive at £17 each! However when you compare it to the price of a new shock: £745 from Eurospares it doesn't seem so bad. (Ferrari don't sell this gear part seperately).

The gears were promptly fitted and a turn of the ignition key saw the light going out! Back to a fault free Ferrari. Let's hope it stays that way...

Tuesday, 25 January 2011 now on Twitter!

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The Lotus Elise

If I'm honest, I had no real intention of buying the car we were driving over to see. The advert looked good - a nice low mileage 02 Lotus Elise S2 in Ice Blue about 15 miles away in Fife. It was standard apart from a Lotus Sport exhaust and the price was keen, but I already had a Mazda MX5 mk1 to fulfil the open top brief.

Really, it was just a diversion on a pretty boring weekend as I headed over with Ross, chatting about the Elise he used to have a few years ago and all the usual things to watch out for.

What I wasn't expecting was just how, well, NICE the car was. It was immaculate, recently valeted and had been obviously well looked after. The mileage was indeed low, 24k, but it had been serviced once a year at the local official Lotus dealership. I've lost count of the times I've seen "Full Service History" in an advert, only to be greeted by 2 year gaps when I actually look at the book.

The seller was a honest guy, selling the car to fund a house move. He seemed genuinely gutted about selling it, which reassured me that the car was probably decent. He took me out for 5 minutes and then handed me the keys.

Now, when Ross had his Elise I had a couple of drives so I knew they were good. However I had forgotten just HOW good. That feedback you get after a couple of corners instantly put a smile on my face and it stayed there all the way back to the guys house. You feel absolutely connected to the car

I loved it.

We got back to the seller's house and I said I would go away and think about it, but I knew that I'd pretty much it had to have it.

Sure enough, a couple of emails back and forth later I had haggled the price down and I was the proud owner of a Lotus Elise!

Job done. Now I just needed to tell my other half...

F355: Back to Edinburgh

Having bought the dream, the next task was to get it back to Edinburgh. It was nearly 3pm by the time we'd left the dealer, and had a 440 mile drive ahead of us. Including an unavoidable stint on the M25. It was crawling speed on the way down and as expected the traffic was moving at the same pace in the opposite direction. My eyes were rivetted to the water temperature gauge but the big fans housed in the huge intakes kept the needle rock solid in the 12 0'clock position. Unfortunately not everything was staying cool, the lack of AC got to Lee as he was sitting on the sunny side of the car and it was a surprisingly warm September day. Unfortunate, as I felt rather comfortable in the supportive standard seats and the "Comfort" suspension did provide a little relief from the crappy motorway surfaces. Even still the AC was job number one to get sorted.

Anyway, what a blast to drive! A lot of chat on places like Pistonheads about these older Ferraris being "slow". I guess it depends what you are comparing it to but the F355 fairly shifts by anyones book! Only slight dissapointment was the standard exhaust not really providing that wail you'd expect from a V8 of this calibre. Job number two.

The car performed faultlessly all the way back to Edinburgh, although (regular visits to the petrol station were giving a taste of what's to come) and we arrived around 11pm at my friend's house, where I'll be storing the car until I can work out a better solution. The garage was only 2m wide, and the F355 1900mm wide. It was fairly tight but it slipped in easily with a bit of guidance. That's what she said.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Collection Day. F355

It was very early morning September 2nd, it was still dark as we left Nottingham en route to D.J Sargent of Copthorne Specialist Cars.

We arrived around midday, the road name was called Flightpath Way. Not just a clever name, every few minutes a 737 would float by heading for Gatwick airport.

We met Damon who I had dealt with over the phone, he brought the F355 out into the light for us to have a nose around and make sure everything was in order. I also handed over my Porsche keys to one of Damon's guys to check it over.

The car looked great, the condition brilliant for a car of it's age. There were a few minor things, like a couple of curb marks on the wheels, some bubbling interior parts but nothing that couldn't be easily sorted. We fired it up and all sounded good too. Lee got busy and started testing all the sorts of nonsense that I would be forgetting, all was good until we got the AC... it was just spewing warm air. We showed Damon, he did seem genuinely surprised that it wasn't working and gave me the "should just need a regas" line. I was skeptical as I knew this could be an really expensive and difficult fix chasing faulty AC compenents around the system, searching for refridgerant leaks, I was starting to think this could have been a wasted trip to London.

Damon offered a test drive in the F355. Now I had driven one before, but it was a few years ago, LHD and a rather tired example so I was still quite unfamilir with it. I eased it out slowly down the bumpy track of the dealership and onto the country roads leaving Lee to comb over the documents. Immediately I was sold. There wasn't much going to stop this deal happening now, Lee could tell by the massive grin I had on my face when we arrived back.

Damon assured me if a regas didn't sort the aircon it would be covered under their warranty so the deal was done. I signed over the Porsche to him, picked up the key to the Ferrari and we set the sat nav to Edinburgh!

Edinburgh to London. Collecting the 355.

The previous evening my friend Lee and I had been frantically cleaning and getting my 993 into a presentable shape for it's impending trade in. I didn't want to give the dealer any excuse for coming down from the £20k offered for the car. Obviously my passenger side electric window switch decided to stop working and every attempt to fix it failed. Oh dear.

By the night of September, 1st, 2010 the Porsche was looking better than I'd ever seen it.

We decided to stop in Nottingham overnight to split up the journey, with a view with doing the remainder of the journey to London and back up to Edinburgh again the following day, all going well, hopefully in the Ferrari. Lee and I set the sat nav to Nottingham and began the 993's final journey.

Friday, 21 January 2011

The 1997 Ferrari F355 Berlinetta deal.

26th of August 2010, I paid a £1000 deposit to D.J Sargent of Copthorne on rosso corsa '97 Ferrari F355 GTB over the telephone. I was slightly nervous having never seen the car nor this particular dealer had never laid eyes on the 1994 Porsche 993 that I was trading in as the dealer was a good 443 miles away according to Google maps.

The asking price for the F355 was £37,500 for this 29,000 mile example and I was offered £20,000 for the Porsche, £5250 more than I had paid for it 2 years previously! I guess there was a bit of allowance for discount in there off the Ferrari but I couldn't resist the opportunity to own my all time dream car.